February is Dental Health Month & for cat owners it’s serious business, so serious it can kill
Dental issues can kill our cats. As plaque builds up on the teeth and around the gums, bacteria can irritate gum tissue and can lead to infection. If not treated, cat dental problems may lead to more serious hear disease, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia , and disease of the liver and kidneys. The same applies to us humans.
What to watch for?
Signs of severe dental disease or pain in cats include bad breath, wobbly teeth, excessive salivation or drooling, teeth chattering or strange gnawing motions.
Signs to look for:
- Lethargy, decreased appetite, depression or hiding/not wanting to be touched.
Your cat actually chewing their food before swallowing it.
No Teeth, here’s what happens
Keep in mind, cats with no teeth at all will happily eat dry food by swallowing it whole Try to notice how much crunching they do with each bite.
According to Pet Care Naturally, ‘Dental disease is the leading cause of chronic inflammation
and infection in dogs and cats. Without treatment, dental disease can lead to problems with the heart, lungs, GI system, kidneys, and overall health. In people, chronic dental disease can cause elevated levels of C-reactive protein, which can contribute to arterial plaque and heart disease. What does this mean for our pets? Chronic diseases such as valvular heart disease and kidney disease are very common in pets; chronic inflammation and infection from periodontal disease, are also very common and contribute to these disorders. This presents further evidence that regular dental cleanings are critical in reducing levels of CRP that may harm our pets’ bodies. Regular (usually annual) dental cleanings done under anesthesia are essential to minimize infection and inflammation and prevent unnecessary tooth loss’
By 3 years of age, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have oral disease.
Periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease of pets. Dental disease is caused by the type of bacteria in the pet’s mouth. Some pets never develop dental disease regardless of oral care. Other pets develop dental disease despite exceptional care. All pets benefit from having their teeth brushed.
Pets in the most danger from dental disease are:
• Pets with endocrine disease, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease
• Pets with poor immune systems, such as cats with Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
• Senior pets
Why is dental disease more important for our pets than us humans?
Human teeth are positioned more closely and have more molar contact surfaces than pet molars have. The contact areas benefit the most from flossing. You can reach 90% of the surface of a dog’s teeth just by brushing; flossing is not essential.
A thin layer of food particles, dead cells and proteins from saliva forms plaque on the teeth and gums. The plaque layer begins forming within 20 minutes of being brushed. Plaque thickens and hardens becoming a calculus unless it is removed by brushing.
What is gingivitis?
Gingiva are gums, and gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria, especially the bacteria between the tooth and the gum, an area called the gingival pocket. With gingivitis, the gum edge reddens, swells, and is no longer flat and snug against the tooth. Bacteria nestle into this space creating plaque and eventual decay.
Is moist cat food better for cats’ teeth than dry kibble?
Yes. For many cats eating moist cat food causes fewer dental problems than eating hard kibble. Chewing kibble creates a special force, the abfraction force, that rocks the tooth and the rocking wears away tooth roots. This tooth injury is so common it has several names: resorptive lesion (RL), feline odontoclastic resorptive lesion (FORL), cervical line lesion, and feline “neck” lesion. In addition to helping the teeth, moist food offers cats other benefits: fewer kidney and bladder stones and crystals.
Paws’ mom is very keen on dental health, having had a second set of front teeth without any roots, several dental surgeries, braces, caps, and now bridges, which aren’t so bad. Last fall, she got a scare when her dentist told her to have a periodontal mapping of her teeth. The results weren’t all that bad, but it was a wake-up call – floss, floss, floss. And make sure to have those cleanings twice a year.
It also made her think back to her cats, Victory and Smokey Blue, both who had a number of teeth pulled. More recently, all her older cats, except Clyde, had teeth cleanings. Clyde doesn’t like moist food. He never has. Why did he escape? We’re not sure.
Annual dental exams important for cats.
We all know dental health is key to longevity in cats. My Smokey Blue had several teeth out. What happened is that all of a sudden, she would start loosing weight. She stopped eating. Now she was not a tiny girl. She was a little portly, but when dental disease came into play, it was like she became anorexic. She dropped weight in weeks. When she lost mega teeth, my vet told me cats could survive even with no teeth. Their gums are so strong, they can eat with their gums. Can you imagine?
On PetSmart.com, we find, ‘Oral disease is one of the most common health problems among adult cats. Regular dental care and proper nutrition are important in the overall oral health of your pet.
• Symptoms of periodontal disease include bad breath, red, swollen or bleeding gums, loss of appetite and loss of teeth. They contend: specially formulated dental cat foods and treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) for promoting oral health can help improve cat dental health including bad breath and gum disease. They say, These foods and treats have a certain texture and shape that help scrape debris off your cat’s teeth.’
A question we often hear is, is hard food better than soft. They say, ‘while hard food can stimulate saliva and promote chewing action that removes plaque, there is no data that canned causes more plaque build-up than dry. Regular dry food does little to cleanse the teeth because it crumbles upon contact with your cat’s teeth.’
According to the American Veterinary Dental College, ‘Brushing your cat’s teeth is the single most effective means to maintain dental health between professional dental cleanings. This makes sense because the bacterial film known as “plaque” is the cause of periodontal disease.’
‘This film is easily disrupted by the simple mechanical effect of brushing the teeth. For brushing to be effective, it needs to be done several times each week – daily brushing is best. Most cats will allow their teeth to be brushed, but you need to take a very gradual and gentle approach. Start by letting your cat lick the dentifrice from your finger, then off the small feline toothbrush, then gradually place the brush in your cat’s mouth and add the brushing motions. Introduction of this process may require daily activity over 1-2 months.’
‘We recommend pet-specific dentifrice for cats; these products are safe for cats and come in flavors that cats accept, such as poultry and seafood. Avoid human toothpaste as they often contain abrasives and high-foaming detergents that should not be swallowed or inhaled. Small cat-specific toothbrushes are available. Some cats prefer finger brushes.’
The fact is: unless you train kitten to have you touch their mouths, you will probably have a hard time brushing your teeth. Paws advice is :
• Give your cats dental treats.
• Make sure you have an annual dental exam as part of your annual physical exam.
That’s one reason Paws changed vets. They stopped checking their teeth and weight. What’s on with that?? We didn’t get it, and no longer visit that vet.
What do you do to make sure your cat has good dental health? Do you try to brush your cats teeth? Do you give them treats? Do you take your cat to the veterinarian and have his teeth checked at least once a year? Have you and your cat shared dental problems? Please weigh in on the discussion, and share your stories and thoughts?